Cretan Fauna

Edible
Dormouse

Edible Dormouse
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The edible dormouse (Glis glis argenteus), squirrel tailed dormouse, myoxus or fat dormouse of Crete is a subspecies of the common dormouse species, met throughout Europe and western Asia. Crete is the southernmost point where we meet this species, with the largest population being limited in Samaria National Park and some individuals being reported in Psiloritis Mount.

They inhabit forests and fruit orchards in both the lowlands and mountains. The most common site for daily shelter is the hollow of trees. The hollows may be lined with grass or other vegetation. It also shelters in crevices between rocks, burrows among tree roots, woodpecker holes, piles of mulch and artificial nest boxes.

The approximate length of the head-body is 14-20 cm. They have a gray back and head with dark, narrow rings around the eyes. The under parts are white or yellowish. Their pelage is short, soft, and thick. These animals are squirrel-like with large and rounded ears, small eyes, and a long bushy tail (11-19 cm). The hands and feet are both equipped with hard pads for use in climbing. The four digits of the forefeet and the five digits of the hind feet have short, curved claws.

Myoxus glis have one litter a year. The litter can consist of 1-11 individuals, but usually falls in the range of 4-6 offspring. Their gestation period is 30-32 days and the young weigh 1-2 g at birth. M. glis is usually weaned at 5-6 weeks and reaches maturity after 1-2 years. To attract males to mate, the females will drag their anal region across the ground to produce an odor marking. These trails are eagerly sniffed by the males, which then leave their marks on top. Also, edible dormice can make a whistling sounds at short intervals over long periods, which announce their willingness to mate.

The edible dormouse is primarily nocturnal and crepuscular, though occasionally it is active during the day. It is highly arboreal, and its agility in the trees may exceed that of squirrels. Some have been known to leap 7-10 meters. It has exceptionally good senses of vision, hearing, smell, and touch (through its vibrissae). The edible dormouse is territorial, marking its space by glandular secretions. Males usually leave the females after mating in search for other females. Myoxus glis hibernates from September/October to May/June. In late summer, edible dormice dig tunnels about 3-6 feet long and about 6-24 inches deep sand when it begins to get cold, they retire to these tunnels. Before hibernating, their body consists 50% of fat, and that’s why they constituted an exquisite delicacy for the Romans, who spread it in all provinces of their empire and breeded it in special cages (edible dormouse).

Myoxus glis is omnivorous. It feeds mainly on seeds, leaves, buds, nuts, acorns, and soft fruits. They eat insects occasionally and have been known to eat small birds.

It lives in forests, in rock cavities, on tree branches, in other animals’ nests, in deserted houses, but also in shrubbery. It feeds on mice, hares, rabbits, eggs, small birds, frogs, etc. The female after a pregnancy of 6 weeks gives birth twice a year to 4-8 youngsters, which are born blind.

It is considered to be useful because it eats mice that destroy fields, but it attacks domestic birds (hens, etc.). It even enters houses and destroys clothes.

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